Cat cataracts make it difficult for your kitty to see the world. Find out how to recognize cataracts in your cat and what actions to take first to alleviate them.

By Deb M. Eldredge, DVM
October 05, 2020
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If you notice your cat moving cautiously, hesitating to go outside in his catio, or jump on his favorite chair, he may have cataracts. This is especially true if he is a senior cat over 10 years of age. You might also notice a cloudiness or haziness in your cat’s eyes. Cataracts in cats rarely cause full blindness, but they can hamper how your cat sees the world.

What Are Cataracts?

A cataract is a change in the lens in your cat’s eye that blocks light from getting to the retina where their vision cells are located. Most cataracts start small, but they can grow and mature to a density that blocks sight. Some cataracts don’t grow, but will stay static. Cats easily adjust to the small loss of vision from those cataracts.

Nuclear sclerosis is a change in the lens that also tends to come with age. This problem tends to show up in both eyes at once. While it appears similar (a haziness in the eyes), it does not usually cause any major problems for your cat’s vision.

How Did My Cat Get Cataracts?

Some cats have a genetic predisposition to cataracts. In certain cat breeds, the eye condition can show up in younger cats under 5 years of age. In contrast, most cat cataracts show up after 10 years of age.

These cat breeds are genetically most likely to develop cataracts over their lifetime:

There are many causes of cataracts in cats, though trauma and inflammation are the most common ones. Trauma would be after a head injury, while inflammation can be caused by a number of cat diseases, such as herpes virus. Though diabetes is commonly a cause of cataracts in dogs and people, luckily, diabetic cats are more resistant to cataracts than either of them!

Your veterinarian can diagnose a cataract with a thorough an eye exam. If there is any question whether or not your cat has cataracts, you will be referred to a veterinary ophthalmologist.

Treating Feline Cataracts

Cataract treatment will depend on a number of factors. The ideal treatment is surgery to remove the cataract itself, which requires a referral to a veterinary ophthalmologist specialist. The defective lens is removed, and an artificial lens put in to help restore vision. Care after surgery can be intense, as your cat will need to wear a cone to protect the healing eye and eye drops given every couple of hours at first.

If your cat only has a cataract in one eye, you may decide to skip treatment. Cataracts are not painful, and your cat will do just fine with one good eye. If your cat has underlying eye problems that affect his vision, removing the cataract may not help him.

A complication of untreated cataracts can be glaucoma. In those cases, the lens slips out of its normal location in your cat’s eye and blocks the drainage of ocular fluid. Pressure builds and can permanently damage the cells of the retina. Glaucoma is painful and families often note a “red eye” and notice their cat is squinting in pain.

How Can I Prevent Cataracts In My Cat?

There are no proven natural or home remedies for cat cataracts. You can, however, take some steps to help prevent the formation of cataracts in the first place. Your best bet is to feed your cat a balanced diet (so he gets plenty of antioxidants), keep him indoors to reduce chances of trauma such as being hit by a car, and to reduce his risk of catching illnesses that might cause inflammation in the eye like herpes or feline leukemia.